Brain Inflammation (sometimes called Autoimmune Encephalitis) can sometimes triggered by your own body in a misguided response to an infection.

Molly Brennand is both a parent and a Functional Nutrition practitioner. She has used an arsenal of Functional Medicine techniques to help her son who has dual diagnoses of Autism and PANS and PANDAS.

In this podcast, She talks about natural treatments for PANDAS using pillars of Functional Medicine that yielded the most return for her efforts.

What does a parent see? And What is the role of Functional Nutrition in addressing these symptoms of PANS or PANDAS diagnosis?


Audio Transcription:

Welcome back to functional nutrition and learning for kids. I’m your host vice and I am the founder of Project swasthya. This is spelled SW a STHY, a swasti. As a Sanskrit word that means health, fortitude, and self dependence. I come to the field of functional nutrition with a PhD in environmental chemistry and 10 years of experience, teaching chemistry and math to a diverse group of kids. I come with a passion to impart the same learning to kids with disability, whether Down syndrome or autism, while setting them up for success with sound functional medicine principles, and that is the aim of my podcast to bring you various perspectives because both healing and learning are multimodal, and super individual. It takes different approaches and listening to different perspectives. Today, I have an ask. I want many, many more people to benefit from this podcast. And if you feel like I do, please share this link with your friends. Why?

Because what should be common sense that sound nutrition and an equal education are the birthright of every child isn’t reaching enough people, especially families with children with Down syndrome or autism. This is the link to share. They can also share the iTunes link to functional nutrition and learning for kids. The direct website is www dot projects was their.com forward slash 2020 forward slash 29. Today I’ll be talking with Molly, also a functional nutrition practitioner who shares the perspective of a parent of an autistic child with pans and pandas.

My guest today is my colleague, Molly Brennan, who is a fellow functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner. She’s also a holistic health coach and proud parent to her son with autism, Lyme disease and pan’s pandas. She’s a graduate of the Institute of integrative nutrition and holds certifications from the functional nutrition lab in both full body systems and the functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner program. As a parent, Molly has made it her mission to facilitate her son’s evolving ability to heal by a functional nutrition and a consistent focus on a nourishing environment and lifestyle.

Despite traditional labor’s and diagnosis, she draws upon her experience as a parent and funnels that energy and knowledge into practice by helping families and children navigate the complexities of chronic illness. Given the right tools, guidance and love, Molly passionately believes that every child can exceed societal assumptions of the capabilities and enjoy a full and rewarding life. Well, thank you so much by us for having me. I’m so excited to be here today. Yeah, who would you would you start off by telling us a little bit giving us a little history about yourself from a personal perspective as a parent. Yes, as as a parent of a child with myriad challenges since birth, it has been a long journey, but a very fruitful one and one that has been actually a great gift. At first, I considered it my my biggest burden. But I have really turned that into seeing it as a gift and an opportunity for me to grow as a human being and as a person, and obviously, as a parent. But my son came into the world under tumultuous circumstances.

It was a very difficult labor and birth. And he ended up having some kidney complications early on. And although that those are resolved, we spent the first two years in a hospital, getting tests and so forth. And that was pretty traumatic. And at the age of four, he was diagnosed with autism. And at that point, I was very much operating from a place of fear.

Of course, no parent wants to hear that news about their child and it was my first child and I was unprepared for motherhood in the best circumstances and then to have this happen was very unnerving and unsettling for me. But it is what launched my career in functional nutrition because I started experiencing or experimenting with his diet and was able to see profound, profound changes in his ability to sit in his chair, his eye contact,it just the tantrums all of that kind of stuff that was happening at a young age virtually disappeared when I put him on a low salicylate diet which is found in berries and seemingly healthy foods.And just by observation, I realized that he would get extremely hyper from eating these foods. And so I was really hooked after that part.

I saw the link between you know, food is medicine.helping my child, and I was, you know, catapulted into this whole world. And so a couple years later, well, actually, so at the age of seven, he became really sick with a virus. And this is last year. And it ended in it in a panda’s diagnosis, which, again, was very terrifying for me as a parent. And as a practitioner, I was very excited that I had all of these skills in this big toolbox to draw from right there. Again, there was nothing that would have prepared me for this kind of situation, just from a parent perspective.

You know, we all want the best for our kids, and,it ended in it in a panda’s diagnosis, which, again, was very terrifying for me as a parent. And as a practitioner, I was very excited that I had all of these skills in this big toolbox to draw from right there. Again, there was nothing that would have prepared me for this kind of situation, just from a parent perspective. You know, we all want the best for our kids, and,you know, just keeping fear at bay and not wanting them to be hurt or struggle, I really can relate to that. And a lot of the parents that I work with, it’s just a very Primal Fear. But I took this as another opportunity. And it was almost my rock bottom really to to say, Okay, this, this is happening, what can I do to calm my body to calm my nervous system, because otherwise, I’m just projecting my fear onto my child. And he’s very sensitive, he can pick up these things, you know. And so it was an opportunity to really turn the mirror on myself and put my oxygen mask on first, which I’ve always tried to do.

This time, I really, really had to do it, because we were dealing with some very, you know, scary symptoms. So, I guess, if it’s helpful, I’ll explain what pandas is to your listeners, if they’re not so familiar with it. Yeah, it actually would be great. And I was actually going to ask you something similar as but what made you see a difference between having an a diagnosis of autism and having a diagnosis of pandas? So where does that intersect or change? Right? Well, if if you consult the the textbooks in the science and literature, they basically there are a lot of crossover in the symptoms and the behaviors that you see there’s some similar things that show up.

The difference is in autism, you can have neuro inflammation going on in the body, at critical milestones of development, critical stages of development, so in the womb, or shortly thereafter when a child is learning to walk or talk. But with pandas, it can happen that same neuro inflammation can happen, but that usually happens after critical milestones have been reached. So you can have a child with autism and pans and pandas like my son, or you can see a perfectly neuro typical child age 910, and suddenly have acute onset symptoms of pandas, which can look a lot like autism. And so that’s the, you know, the difference, but it can be very confusing to tease out. And so I guess, you know, with pandas, it has nothing to do with the bear, of course, but the it’s a long acronym jumbled words, but it stands for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections.

Right. And this is basically just a long way of saying that there is brain inflammation, and it’s brought on by some type of infectious agent. In the case of pandas, it’s usually strep. And in the case of pan’s it can be another infectious inducing agent. And so in this case, my son had Lyme and mycoplasma pneumonia, which is a co infection of Lyme. And then he also has had a strep infection. So I guess technically, he has pans and pandas, but it’s really under the umbrella of brain inflammation brought on by some infection that causes an autoimmune attack on the dopamine receptors in the brain. So that’s why we see a lot of social and emotional dysregulation and cognitive issues that happen in pans and pandas kids. And, you know, it’s a question in my mind of whether this pans and pandas has been present all along.And, you know, one of the defining characteristics of pans and pandas is this acute onset. And that is true with my son, I would say his autism presentation was more on the mild side. And then once he got this virus, and then, you know, 10 days after the infection, he had an acute display of symptoms. So verbal abnormalities.

He kind of he’s a very verbose individual, his verbal acuity is extremely high, when there’s not an infection present. But when there is an infection, he tends to lose his verbal skills. And he takes on more of these animalistic type of noises like clucking, like a chicken or hooting like a monkey or using gestures to communicate. And that was something that happened literally overnight. So that was really, really fascinating to see accompanied by facial tics that weren’t there before as much. And severe behavioral regression in terms of, you know, he would, his preferred mode of transportation was crawling and sitting on my lap. And when he did use words, he would talk like a baby. So these were all things that were drastically intensified, or different than before? And do these come and go in phases? Yes, and so are the first onset we had was last February, that’s when you know, the explosion, so to speak, happened with these very intense symptoms. And since then, we have been, you know, treating him with various modalities applied from functional nutrition principles. And, yes, he has absolutely made, you know, I would say a 90% improvement. And where we get stuck is anytime he does get a cold or a virus, his symptoms will return. Right, but not anywhere to the degree that they were happening at the onset. And so that’s really encouraging to me, because even though it’s easy to get frustrated with seeing these symptoms come back, they’re muted, they’re blunted in a way that I know that we’re still making progress. So that is, that’s really good to hear. And even though I mean, we understand that the modalities that might work for each child are going to be different depending on the child, could you share a few things that have worked for you? Yes, yes, absolutely.

Well, one of the first things we did when when we figured out it was pandas happening pans, and pandas, I really just took a look at all of the different areas that I knew I could support. So diet was a big one. And just making sure that we got out all of this sugar, even though his diet is has been pretty good. I’ve been using functional nutrition with him since you know, as far as I can remember, you know, when he was a baby, but you know, things slip in, he goes to a school, and he sees kids eating pizza and cookies and things like that. So I just, we took out a lot of the sugar, I really focused on his sleep and creating a consistent schedule, every morning and at night, going to bed at the same time, waking up, you trying to have a bowel movement at the same time, every day, just getting really all of those rhythms as as fine tuned as I could, increasing his hydration, all of those things.

We did try using anti inflammatories like Advil and things like that at the very onset, just to see if his behavior would change. And and it did. And so we had a big clue that inflammation was really going on, but that I don’t really recommend that as a long term strategy, because it can really mess up the gut. But that was helpful in the short term, just so we could see what we are doing. And so he could kind of get a break because he was in a lot of pain too. And feeling like just something was not right in his brain, you know, he would say this, there’s something, there’s something not right, make it stop, make it stop, and he would go into these fits of rage. And so just really working on the basics, his gut health, his nutrition, and his sleep.

That was something that I felt like I could do while I waited to get you know,various degrees of help from doctors and I will say that we had to go to two or three different doctors before I found one that aligned with,you know, my philosophies and also there were many doubts from a lot of these practitioners because a lot of doctors are not familiar with pandas or they don’t believe in it. Right? We finally the third doctor was was a charm. And she said I think you’re right and I think this sounds like Lyme induced pandas. And let’s let’s get going with this. And where these doctors PCPs are a functional met doctors one was a PCP one was a functional and that the other two were functional, my doctors and so even within the functional situation, you had to hunt a little bit too.

Find the perfect fit for Yes, yes, yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s actually a good learning because just because of a label, so we’re all about not going by labels. And I think even functional medicine can sometimes be a label and it might not be the best fit, and everybody needs to find what works for them individually. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and finding, finding someone when you’re at that critical stage, and and you know, that something is really off. And that, you know, your child went to bed one night and woke up a totally different child, that this, this needs immediate attention. And that requires specific digging, you know, really deep digging to find out getting certain tests,that that will show if there’s, you know, antibody activity in the brain. And that was the hook line and sinker.

For me it you know, for us, we needed that piece of paper so we could get doctors to listen and say, Look there there is autoimmunity happening in the brain, and what steps do we need to take to remedy this? So yes, and so from the from the doctor side of things, what we’ve done is we’ve uncovered just various infections that have been impeding his recovery. And some of those, you know, are parasites, where he tested for toxic mold, we had toxic mold in our house, and he had mycotoxins kind of show up in his his tests, and bacterias heavy metals. And so we have been systematically trying to remediate all of those things in this past year. And so you know, and the difference is staggering from where we were last February. And it is a slow, you know, it’s not, it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. And that is something that, you know, I need to run my remind myself, as a parent, as a practitioner, it’s easier to remember that, but as a parent, you easily forget that I was going to ask you for three action items, but you almost already mentioned them.

I’m going to repeat some of the things that you said, because I find them very powerful. And I find them as examples of things that people can do, even before going to a practitioner, and people and if you said sleep, you said poop. And And the third thing I think he said was an up basic anti inflammatory diet, correct? Yes. Yes. Absolutely. And really honing in on those and seeing where there are holes in that because there always are those are all works in progress. And why the basic and anti inflammatory diet can be different for different people at the bare minimum. Would you agree that it involves removing gluten, dairy and refined sugar? Or is there anything else on your list as well? Yes.

Well, though, that is the the the foundational anti inflammatory diet. Absolutely those three things. And then I think on top of that, that’s going to be specific to the individual. Like, for example, I mentioned early on that my son can’t tolerate salicylates very well. And those are compounds found in very, it most all foods, and you know, he will react to certain foods that are the highest on the salicylate rating. But I can he can tolerate some that have medium levels of salicylates. So those kind of very specific you know, nuances that will definitely vary from person to person. And, you know, so different, you know, dairy, we actually doing camel’s milk now, but he cannot tolerate any kind of cow’s milk or goat’s milk whatsoever. So just finding those variations, but the baseline, absolutely, gluten, dairy, and sugar are the three things that really should be kept completely out of the diet as you’re, as you’re healing this inflammatory response that’s going on. And as we wrap up, Molly, can you share with us a few frustrations or gaps that you’ve seen in the medical care system that you’ve experienced be that functional or traditional, or the western model, etc? Yeah, you know, I think my frustrations really showed up, when we were bouncing from doctor to doctor. And, you know, just there was an unwillingness to listen to what I had to say about what was what we were seeing in our in our child. And there was a readiness to just go the textbook route and well, he’s not exhibiting these symptoms, so he must not have that so I’m not going to bother testing him for it.

You know, so there’s just this. There was a disconnect and and that’s I found that very frustrating and they’re in to me, these specific doctors, we’re not really looking at the whole person, the whole my you know, all of These different facets, the spiritual, emotional, you know, you can take all the supplements in the world and throw the book at it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll improve.

I mean, there’s just so many aspects that we need to hold, and and pay heed to aside from, you know what the standard protocol is for someone who has pandas. It’s, it’s so that that’s, that’s continues to be a frustration. But I, you know, we are, we are with the right, providers and practitioners. And, you know, and just another thought I, I had about all of this was really, I think, what’s required, like the three things that we already mentioned, but I’d like to add to that, the practice of radical acceptance,radical acceptance, and, you know, this was, this phrase was communicated to me by one of my good friends, who’s also a parent who has a child with similar challenges as mine. And he said, You know, every day you need to wake up and practice radical acceptance not only for yourself, but for your child, and be in the present. And that’s when the healing is really unlocked.

When things can flow freely is when we’re not gripped in fear, and projecting our own stuff onto our own kids. And just practicing radical radical acceptance of what is and that this is your child’s path. And you are the chosen guide. Right? Yes. So I love that phrase, Molly. I feel like I might have heard it somewhere before, but it’s just like, I probably haven’t in a really long time. I love that phrase. And I’m going to use it a lot. Radical acceptance. Yes. Yes. It’s beautiful. It’s just Yeah, yeah, it makes me so.

I mean, actually, it almost makes me want to clear it up actually. Because it’s, it’s so different from the sterile word that we use when we say acceptance, autism acceptance, Down syndrome, acceptance. It’s just like, it’s so it’s so clinical and sterile. And it feels like it doesn’t mean anything. But radical acceptance feels very profound, right? Yes, I agree. It’s, it’s been a helpful phrase for me. Yeah. Yeah. And I would add to that, The other thing as you were talking about your frustrations is that the necessity for every practitioner function or otherwise, to understand that there’s a lot that we don’t know, and as long as we accept that we don’t know. And as long as we’re able to say that allowed, we actually allow for a lot of changes to happen in our patients. But if we’re very stuck to what we think we know, we’re really getting in the way of healing happening, right.

Oh, you can have said it better that that’s so brilliantly said. Yes. Thank you for coming here today. Molly, it was wonderful having you here. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your journey with such well notability. Thanks again for joining me in this journey. As I sign off today, I want to ask you if you have any questions that you would like answered, do you worry about impulse control? How much sugar is too much? And what foods help focus? Or maybe you aren’t sure what the best learning strategy is for your child? And I would love to help you find your answer. Please send in your questions to me and advise the AI sh at functional nutrition for kids.com. Bye.